Sikorsky and the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) are working to dramatically improve flight safety and operations so humans and machines can work together more seamlessly in the field. Sikorsky is leading the way toward a future where aircraft can be operated with two, one or zero pilots at all times of the day or night and in a variety of complex scenarios, including contested, congested, degraded visual environments (DVE).
This technology suite already exists in Sikorsky’s S-70 Optionally Piloted Vehicle (OPV) Black Hawk and the Sikorsky Autonomy Research Aircraft (SARA), a modified S-76B helicopter. Developed under DARPA’s Aircrew Labor In-cockpit Automation System (ALIAS) and with the support of Sikorsky’s MATRIX™ Technology, pilots can focus on saving lives or transporting cargo instead of the mechanics required for contemporary flight.
This technology was recently tested in a first-of-its-kind mission, demonstrating complete supervised autonomy capabilities on the S-70 OPV Black Hawk – including autonomous take-off, landing and two simulated obstacle avoidance scenarios – all completed with a tablet. With ALIAS, there is the potential to transform how aviators and air crews execute their critical missions; operators can fly their aircraft safely, reliably, confidently, and affordably, even with reduced crew and limited visibility.
From takeoff to landing, ALIAS and MATRIX left little work to be done by the pilots on board during the test. Accompanied by a safety pilot. As expected, the OPV Black Hawk turned and maneuvered its way through the simulated obstacles as they appeared on the tablet screen. ALIAS and MATRIX will improve operator decision aiding for manned operations while also enabling both unmanned and reduced crew operations in increasingly complex future mission scenarios.